I think that it is significant that Steinbeck's quote appears at the point where the Joad family and the other migrants end up living in communal conditions. In "the loss of home became one loss," Steinbeck is bringing out how the sadness and misery that individuals experienced became a shared and communal one. It is through such heartache and pain that solidarity becomes evident, ensuring that individuals no longer see their own condition as something unique to themselves. Rather, the shared element of a loss helps to provide what Steinbeck sees as the overall theme of hope so intrinsic to the novel. When individuals begin to see themselves as part of a larger condition, there can be more hope for a sense of social solidarity and redemption. The "golden time in the West" is almost an inversion of the notion of "Go West, Young Man," when individuals set out for Westward expansion apart from a social contingent. Individuals who believed in the dream of Westward expansion did so without the social communitarian bonds. In Steinbeck's setting, though, this dream of hope and optimism becomes something shared in a collective entity, primarily because everyone in the encampment needs something upon which to hold. In this, again, Steinbeck suggests the power of hope and transforming individual isolation within pain into a domain where individual hope becomes evident through the power of solidarity and social transformation. In this quote, one sees these ideas illuminated in a powerful manner.